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Showing posts from July, 2020

A Day of Liberal Scripture

My pre-Episcopal Church experience didn't do much with the prescribed lectionary readings. (During my college years, the pastor of my church devoted five years to preaching the book of Romans.) And I know that the prescribed readings were put together by a committee many years ago—they are not responding to our daily current events. I'm fascinated by the theme of today's readings. First, we have Psalm 71, which includes an elaborate plea to God not to forget the believer, who is now an old man with grey hair. Next, there's Judges 4:4-23, which begins with Deborah as the judge over Israel (the highest human authority). She decides that the Israelites need to go to war, summons Barak, and gives him the battle plans. The war goes well, and the enemy flees. Sisera, the enemy general, flees, and takes refuge in the tent of Jael, wife of one of the lower leaders of the Israelites. She shelters him, and when he finally drifts off to sleep, she puts a tent peg through his templ

Knocking down some walls

Yesterday, we met for worship in a Shelby park. The setup was perfect: pleasant summer morning, picnic pavilion with a roof for shade, but no walls to keep out the breeze. We were able to stay a decent social distance from one another, but still hear one another. It was a little awkward, but for a first experience, quite good. For at least 2000 years, the church has struggled with walls. Physical walls, of course, are often useful. That picnic pavilion would not have been so pleasant if there had been a driving rainstorm, and I suspect winter snow will make it uninhabitable. We need mental, emotional, and spiritual walls, too. The Prayer Book points out that the Eucharist is only available to baptized Christians, and exclusion from Communion is still a possible strategy for church discipline. Some older Presbyterian churches still have a practice called "Fencing the Table," in which the minister, as sort of a prelude to the Communion service, expounds on who may and who may n

Disobedient Paul

When I was a staff member with InterVarsity, I kept running into the same question, usually from anxious undergraduates: "What if I miss God's will? What if I don't figure it out until it's too late?" They seemed to feel that, for one thing, God's will for their lives was incredibly difficult to see—like he has a big master plan but one must be some sort of a soothsayer to find it. For another, they felt that God has one perfect plan—only one—for their lives. It's like catching a train. If you want the train from Washington to Chicago, you must get on exactly the right one at exactly the right time. No other trains in the station will work, and there will never be another way to get to Chicago. And the trains are unmarked. Finding a spouse was a similar story: Students had the idea that God has one, and only one, exactly perfect spouse in mind, and no others will do. What if I accidentally fall in love with the wrong person? (And I always wondered what if

What now?

As I write this, it's been three months and 20 days since I last attended church at St. Mark's. (I skipped the last Sunday the church was open—thought the Covid-19 problem would be over within a few weeks.) Across the country—indeed around the world—Episcopal churches have been closed in an attempt to protect our parishioners from sickness, and it has probably helped a lot. Meanwhile, some other groups have attempted "business as usual," and have paid a steep price for their attempts to have large Sunday morning worship services. Everything I read tells me that the coronavirus will be with us for a very long time, and perhaps we haven't seen the worst of it yet. So now what? What are the possibilities going forward? What should the church of the future (at least for a year or two) look like? One speaker and lots of listeners This has been the pattern for churches (and schools) for hundreds and hundreds of years. A bunch of people get together, sit very close,